I can see the name Bahati emblazoned on a bag! A lucky name for a designer’s future.
This is my third time writing about Frandson; I wrote a review of his past two exhibitions: a solo exhibition, (dis)honesty, and his group exhibition with his sisters, Regarde Moi Vol. 2. Both 2020 exhibitions were stellar, and had so much identity and homage to those around them.
Nineteen99, a streetwear brand consisting of originally designed hand printed screen-prints, is what Frandson Bahati’s idea of a side hustle is. For anyone who knows printmaking, that shit’s fun, but that shit’s hard. The way that Nineteen99’s prints come out so clean AND is on fabric, is already such a hard bargain. Plus, they’re baptised with original designs that are limited to each drop. So I curiously sat down with the man of a few words.
Tell me the basics about yourself, (degree, sign, etc).
So, I study Fine Arts. I actually started off wanting to be a tradie, like building… but then I kinda decided to go towards my passion. And yeah, So I’m here now. And my name’s Frandson—Frandson Bahati. I have four sisters. [I’m] Burundian, which is in East Africa. My star sign? Leo. I’m not really sure what that’s meant to mean aye.
What’s Nineteen99 about? Like How did it start?
It started from just me. Just liking graphic tees—rock band t-shirts and all that. I just loved the graphics and I wanted to make my own. The brand now just kind of represents experiences—my life experiences, my culture, my background, and everything I’m kinda interested in. It’s just about expressing myself, really.
Would you say printmaking is one of your favourite art media?
I don’t know what my favourite is aye? I think I just like to create and whatever’s the most compelling at the moment, that’s what I like to do. I like video making as well. Yeah, I don’t think I can choose, haha.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I like the impression of just creating, having an idea, and bringing it into real life. Just being able to touch it, just something tangible, you know? Yeah, something tactile.
What’s your regular process?
Yeah. I usually create designs on the computer and yeah, just trial and error: just making shitty ones ‘til you find the one that makes you go “oh yeah okay this is it,” then just move towards printing.
What inspires you to continue creating?
My family. Everyone’s creative in my family. Everyone just pushes me to keep going. If I didn’t have them I probably wouldn’t be out here doing this.
Do you think it makes a difference that you’re at Elam and you’re doing all this – side hustle and all?
Yeah. Of course. I think Elam keeps me focused, because if I weren’t here I wouldn’t be able to just come and make things everyday. Like I’d have to outsource, ask somebody else to make it, and it’d take time, probably get frustrated… I’d probably lose interest.
Just to expound, why Fine Arts?
There are so many different mediums and different things to try out. There’s so much creative freedom. The freedom of the school was attractive to me.. If that makes sense?
I think I’m just trying to develop my style more, to be honest. Just to push it further, make better designs, use more colour. Different materials? Maybe elements? Yeah, just to expand.
Where do you see it going?
Hahaha. Shit. I don’t know aye? Time will tell, time will tell. I have no clue, I’m just having fun, to be honest. Just having fun, learning new things.
Wait, SO were you born in 1999?
I’ve always watched his work from afar, at the sem-end shows; his pieces never disappoint. As he continues to prove himself as an emerging artist in Aotearoa’s Fine Art scene, Frandson Bahati makes the versatility of a Fine Art degree very obvious. He constantly blurs the lines between Fine Art and Commercial art—even though in the institution, commercial art is sneered at, he continues to be an artist that proves why this snobbish ideal hinders art from propelling—possibly—forward.